The Wall Street Journal reported that Genius, the lyrics web site, has said they caught Google literally red handed stealing lyrics from their web site without any attribution or payment. Google denies it and says they license the lyrics from a third-party but will be investigating the situation.
How Genius caught Google “red handed” was pretty smart. They used straight and curly single-quote marks within the lyrics to form a unique morse code string that outputted “red handed” when decoded. They were the only ones to use this method and they knew when Google showed the quotes in this fashion that Google was indeed picking up the lyrics from their web site.
Here is a screen shot from the WSJ:
Google replied on Twitter saying they are going to investigate:
Lyrics in info boxes on Google Search are licensed, we don’t generate them from other sites on the web. We’re investigating this issue and if our data licensing partners are not upholding good practices, we will end our agreements.
— Google Communications (@Google_Comms) June 16, 2019
What likely happened, I would guess, is that the site Google was licensing the lyrics from was actually stealing the content from Genius. Of course, this is just a guess and maybe Google was stealing from Genius directly or maybe something else is going on?
Google was informed about this from Genius years ago but didn’t take the claims seriously until now, when the WSJ published its article.
Rand summed it up:
1: Google scrapes & republishes https://t.co/B8eAvFMYUv’s lyrics in full in the SERPs
2: Genius tells Google to quit it
3: Google denies & ignores
4: Genius puts “red handed” in Morse code of their apostrophes
5: Proof is in the SERPs. And now in the WSJhttps://t.co/D2Hptz4jCT pic.twitter.com/29PEe5ud52
— Rand Fishkin (@randfish) June 16, 2019
Kevin Marks, a well respected open source guy and someone who has years and years of working at Google and other companies like it said:
Your recounting says the lyrics belong to genius, whereas they didn’t write the lyrics, and crowd source the transcriptions themselves. So this is fractal plagiarism.
— Kevin Marks (@kevinmarks) June 17, 2019
Here is a screen shot of Google’s lyrics for this song right now:
Good going Google!
Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.